You can’t go far these days without being bombarded with lists of what’s ‘trending’. This mainstay of the social media world got us thinking: What’s trending in our world? The world of CA Gen development, modernisation, and getting the best out of CA Gen. A straw poll within Jumar came up with the almost unanimous response: ‘to provide better customer service’.
In this blog post, we’ll look a little deeper at why – and how.
Who’s your customer?
‘Customers’, in this context, means both internal and external customers to the business. Regardless of which category a person falls into, the key is to ensure they have what they want, when they need it – and without having to wait an inordinate amount of time for it. It is generally becoming more unacceptable to have to wait – or be given with a response comprising separate batches of uncoordinated data. The data is there, the business logic is there – but how do you unlock its potential?
Modern technology means we always expect a familiar, user-friendly interface, which gives us what we need with the minimum of fuss. Sounds simple, but with old, tightly-coupled 3270 green-screen type systems still in operation, potentially containing many CA Gen models – extracting the right data efficiently, and presenting it in the desired manner, is perceived as being far from simple. We’re all so used to information being presented in a user-friendly, efficient form these days, that when that information is buried deep in a monolithic system, and not particularly accessible, that frustrations start to creep in. Draw a parallel with your general web usage. It doesn’t take long before you abandon a clunky, unfriendly and uncooperative website for something a much more polished competitor can provide. How the data is structured in the back-end is of little concern to the end user; they just want it to work.
However, transforming a monolithic CA Gen-based system to give it the required user interface, with granular access to the data, can be done. And it can be a lot simpler than many people think, if the correct approach and technologies are adopted.
In situations like these, the ‘as is’ scenario is comparatively inflexible, and perceptions are that it’ll take a lot of work to break it down into more manageable chunks (see SOA and CBD on our website). Change, therefore, is feared.
The ‘to be’ situation is the polar opposite. It is flexible, can respond quickly and allows real-time delivery to the web, intranet or the wealth of new mobile devices.
The concept behind the transformation from ‘as is’ to ‘to be’ is simple. The process belied by the small arrow above, we tend to find, can be quite off-putting – even in scenarios where there is an urgent desire to expose those CA Gen applications to the web or a more flexible front end.
But, regardless of the mindset, there regularly seems to be a common driver to use existing systems to provide a better customer service. Not to completely replace them with this year’s technology (as that could be prohibitively expensive), but to re-architect them in order to make them to be more ‘friendly’ with the systems we want to consume them. If this happens, the eventual end-user is happy, and the requirement to provide good customer service can be ticked off.
You CAN make it easier
Any such transition contains a unique combination of architecture analysis, re-factoring, platform change, exposure of CA Gen services and other processes – but years of experience has taught us that this is much less painful if as much as possible is automated. Experience also teaches us that an Agile approach to the process is favourable – but this is considered on a case-by-case basis.
So, why do we think striving for customer service is currently ‘trending’ as a reason to modernise CA Gen systems? Simply, because that’s what our clients are requesting.
A major piece of work recently was for a major national telecommunications provider, which had more than 50 CA Gen applications – mostly 3270 block mode, but with some client server architecture. This had a major impact on front-line staff faced with even simple customer transactions, meaning they had to access multiple systems – many with a rigid menu-based structure. By exposing the functionality of the back-end of the system, and using web services to allow it to interface with more user-friendly technology, meant that those staff could access what they needed, quickly, easily and using familiar and intuitive interfaces. This satisfies not just the customer service requirement to the ultimate paying customer – but also to the responsibility of the business to its internal customers i.e. those on the shop floor or call centre. Happy staff, happy customers and all that.
In a separate assignment, we’re working with a government department in the Middle East to transform a very old block mode architecture into client-server, with a web services layer to make it much more flexible and scalable. This ensures that the CA Gen models are no longer constrained by the 3270 limitations, and the functionality is substantially freed up, allowing it to be more easily accessed by customers – be they internal customers (colleagues) or members of the public.
Another recent example was the requirement of an insurance company to allow its clients on-demand access to policy documentation. Again, unlocking the applications to expose them to the Web ensured that the investment already made in the back end system was protected, but that a modern-day audience could receive the level of service they expect.
These are only three examples of ways we’ve exposed the services held in legacy systems to the web – but they are typical of the upward trend we are seeing in CA Gen (and indeed non-CA Gen) related transformation projects. The common theme is that someone’s life is made easier, more efficient and using an interface they are familiar with.
In short, it enables people. They are better placed.
The moral of the story, though, is that you don’t have to re-write your applications. It’s not hard if you automate the process and apply the methodologies used by Jumar on projects of this type. Our Project Phoenix automation software also significantly reduces the need for error-prone manual work. If you’d like to find out more about releasing the potential of your CA Gen applications by integrating them with new and emerging technologies, making them faster to access, more flexible and more scalable, please contact us. Your customers will be glad you did.